The Leyland National was designed as a standardised, all-purpose vehicle to be used by the NBC throughout the 1970s. It was built by the aptly named Leyland National Bus Company, which was jointly owned by the NBC and Leyland.
The NBC was created by the government in 1969, and BMMO immediately became their largest subsidiary. Because of this, it was only natural that the Leyland National would be used in the Midland Red fleet, and between December 1972 and September 1980, the company acquired 445 new examples. The first 420 examples of these were the mark-one version, with the remaining 25 examples being the newer mark-two version. All of the Leyland Nationals that were operated by Midland Red from new were the 11.3-metre long wheelbase type, fitted with single doors and bus seats, they were delivered in ten batches detailed below.
The first batch of Leyland National buses ordered by BMMO consisted of 58 vehicles; all fitted with 52 seats and single entrance doors. This was Leyland’s first major order for the single door version of the Leyland National, as all but three production Leyland Nationals built before this time had been double door vehicles.
Deliveries began in December 1972, with the vehicle class being allocated the Midland Red type code N1, and a new fleet numbering sequence was started at number 101 for the first vehicle. The first vehicle delivered, fleet number 101 (registration number HHA101L), was painted in overall red BMMO livery and initially unallocated, serving at a number of depots in the Birmingham and Black Country area as a driver familiarisation vehicle. All subsequent vehicles arrived in NBC poppy red livery.
In 1973, BMMO re-seated all of the vehicles in this batch to 51 by removing one seat from behind the driver and fitting a small luggage rack.
Thirty-three vehicles from this batch passed to the WMPTE on the 3rd December 1973 with BMMO services and assets in Birmingham. See the “WMPTE: Acquisition of Services and Assets” page in the History section of this website for more details.
The second batch of Leyland Nationals consisted of 50 vehicles and deliveries continued from the end of the first batch in August 1973. Like the first batch, the majority of these vehicles were delivered with 52 seats and were re-seated to 51 in 1973, most of them before entering service.
Initially all the vehicles from this batch were allocated the type code N1. However, the last seven vehicles from this batch, fleet numbers 292–298, were built as “Phase II” specification by Leyland (chassis type 1151/1R) and when these were delivered in June 1974, BMMO reclassified the whole batch to type N2. These seven vehicles were also seated as B51F from new, so didn’t require re-seating by BMMO.
After the first two batches of Leyland National buses had entered service with Midland “Red,” the senior management felt they had enough examples of the type to meet their requirements and now wished to acquire vehicles that were more suited to other types of work. For 1975, the company had ordered ten Leyland Leopard coaches, ten Leyland Leopard dual-purpose buses, 40 Bristol LH/ECW service buses and twenty Leyland Atlantean double-deck buses. The NBC, who had invested heavily in the development of the Leyland National and owned Midland “Red” at the time, overruled the Midland Red management and dictated that the Leyland National should become the standard vehicle for the company.
Following this ruling, the Bristol LH/ECW service buses were diverted to Crosville and replaced with twenty Leyland Nationals, while the order for Leyland Atlantean double-deck buses was cancelled, and further Leyland Nationals ordered.
The last vehicle from this batch, Leyland National fleet number 438 (registration number GOL438N), entered service two months after the remainder of the batch as it had been originally built as a “Lifeliner” Ambulance demonstrator, registration number LSN3N, and exhibited at the 1974 Commercial Motor Show [ Photograph ]. In July 1975, it was reconstructed to bus specification and passed to the Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC), entering service in October 1975.
In 1979, Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) placed an order for fifty-two new vehicles, made up of fourty 11.6m Leyland National single-deck buses (fleet numbers 807–847) to be delivered in 1980, and tweleve Grant coaches (fleet numbers 847–858) to be delivered in 1981. Unfortunatly, by the time deliveries started MROC were in financial difficulties and the order was reduced to just twenty-five buses.
Deliveries of the reduced order started in January 1980, and these were of the newer Mark II version of the Leyand National which featured a restyled front. To further save money, these vehicles were built to “B” series specification; being fitted with under-floor heaters instead of a roof mounted heating pod, and the standard version of the Leyland L11 engine, without a turbocharger.
The financial difficulties finally got the better of the Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC), and just under a year after the last of these vehicles was delivered, the company closed and split into five smaller operating companies.
In the late 1970s, Midland Red Omnibus Company (MROC) were short of buses so from October 1978 they operated eleven Leyland National buses on-loan from other NBC operators. The eleven Leyland National buses came from the following NBC companies…
All of the vehicles on-loan were recorded as “Unallocated” in the Midland Red fleet, but operated from either Redditch depot or Tamworth (Aldergate) depot, and there is photographic evidence to suggest some were also used at Cannock depot and Stafford depot. Midland Red didn’t give any of these buses fleet numbers so they operated with the fleet number of the owning company, and they also kept their original livery and fleetnames with only a “On Hire to Midland Red” notice shown in the windows. Most had returned to their owners by July 1979, but one example remained until January 1980.
When the Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) closed on 5th September 1981, the fleet was divided between the six new companies. Most of the Leyland National fleet was still in operation with Midland Red, however 33 vehicles, all type code N1, had been passed to WMPTE on 3rd December 1973 and one vehicle, fleet number 706 (registration number TOF706S), had been written off in an accident when it was only 12 weeks old. The surviving Leyland Nationals were allocated to the new companies as shown in the table below.
|New vehicle allocations following the closure of Midland Red on 5th September 1981.|
|Midland Red (North) Limited
Renamed Arriva Midlands North
|Midland Red (South) Limited
Renamed Stagecoach Midland Red
|Midland Red (East) Limited
Renamed Midland Fox Limited from 15/1/84
|Midland Red (West) Limited
Renamed First Midland Red Buses Limited
|Midland Red (Express) Limited
Renamed Midland Red Coaches Limited
|Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited
“Central Works” - Enginnering support only
|Vehicles withdrawn before the closure of Midland Red.|
|West Midland Passenger Transport Executive
Passed to WMPTE on 3rd December 1973. *
Vehicles withdrawn before 5th September 1981